By Madeleine Brindley
PATIENTS are receiving anti-cancer treatments at a special Saturday clinic in a Welsh hospital.
Velindre Cancer Centre’s weekend clinic has helped to boost capacity at the Cardiff hospital and reduce waiting times for patients.
Developed especially for women with breast cancer to receive Herceptin and other cancer drugs, the service could be extended to Sunday opening in the future or relocated closer to patients’ homes.
Cathy Barker, the integrated services manager and lead nurse at Velindre NHS Trust who pioneered the service, said: “Since the Saturday clinic on Rhosyn day unit opened in March 2007 we have been able to increase the number of treatments by 40%, enabling us to relieve capacity issues within the unit and of course providing a positive experience for our patients.”
She added that as well as being more convenient for patients themselves – it is easier to park at the hospital on Saturday and patients’ families are often able to accompany them – the Saturday clinic has also benefited the cancer centre itself. Staff have more time to talk to patients and to answer their questions because the clinic is not as busy as those run on weekdays.
The Saturday clinic has also helped to make a “positive difference” to the running of the Velindre’s inpatient unit in terms of resources and meeting staff and patients’ needs.
Ms Barker said many nurses were now asking to work on a Saturday as there are fewer interruptions and all the patients are pre- planned, so the treatments will have been made up for the day before the clinic begins.
She said: “We hope to be able to treat patients within three to four weeks of referral but that is now down to two weeks.”
The Saturday clinic was first opened in March 2007, seven months after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence decided that Herceptin would be available on the NHS to thousands of women with early stage HER2-positive breast cancer.
Janet Langdon, a grandmother-of-eight, from Barry, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005.
The 65-year-old attended the Saturday clinic at Velindre regularly as she was put on a course of Herceptin and later involved in a clinical trial.
Mrs Langdon, a carer, is now taking a daily dose of the breast cancer drug Arimidex.
She said: “I was originally going to the hospital in the week but then they asked if I’d like to come in on a Saturday.
“It isn’t so busy on a Saturday and was, more or less, just the people who were having Herceptin – you didn’t have all the other people who were coming in for different treatments and blood transfusions.
“It was terribly stressful when the week-day clinics were busy because you would have to wait if another patient came in as an emergency.
“But the Saturday clinics are always on time and the time you spend in there has also come down.
“There would be people coming in to the Saturday clinic, having their treatment and going on to do their shopping, knowing that they were going to be seen almost immediately.
“There is a really nice atmosphere there and it is almost like a little club. You get to know the nurses more because there are fewer people – it’s much better.”
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